LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.5

Help for IT-DISCUSS Archives


IT-DISCUSS Archives

IT-DISCUSS Archives


IT-DISCUSS@LIST.UVM.EDU


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

IT-DISCUSS Home

IT-DISCUSS Home

IT-DISCUSS  March 2004

IT-DISCUSS March 2004

Subject:

CS Monitor: "Is your computer spying on you?"

From:

Geoffrey Duke <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Technology Discussion at UVM <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 29 Mar 2004 12:16:24 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (190 lines)

[log in to unmask] has recommended this article from
The Christian Science Monitor's electronic edition.


Click here to read this story online:
http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0329/p14s02-stin.html

Headline:  Is your computer spying on you?
Byline:  Gregory M. LambBy G.M.L. Staff writer of The Christian Science
Date: 03/29/2004

It's sometimes called the "new spam." It slips right through firewalls
and antivirus programs, riding the coattails of legitimate programs
you've chosen to download from the Internet. In its more common and
benign forms, it will send you pop-up ads targeted to your interests
and clog your computer's memory. At its most malicious, it can steal
your passwords and credit-card numbers, maybe even let a remote user
take over your computer.

It's spyware, a broad term for programs that hide on users' computers
without their knowledge. It has become so pervasive that both federal
and state governments are looking into ways to prevent or at least
regulate it.

While it's hard to tell the share of computers that have been infected
with spyware, estimates run as high as 95 percent. One popular spyware
detection program, Spybot Search and Destroy, lists nearly 800 spyware
programs that it can find and remove.

While most of the spyware found on computers appears relatively benign
so far, experts suggest users take measures to protect themselves (see
list page 17).

Children online can be especially vulnerable because they may have less
technical savvy and frequently download so-called peer-to-peer software
from the Internet, often called freeware or shareware.

"One of the ways these programs end up on people's computers is that
they can be bundled with other free applications they download, which
can include file-sharing applications, screen savers, or other kinds of
free utilities," says Michael Steffen, a policy analyst at the Center
for Democracy and Technology (CDT) in Washington, D.C.

Kazaa, a widely used music- swapping program that has been downloaded
270 million times, has carried at least 12 kinds of hidden spyware at
various times over the past two years, according to a recent study at
the University of Washington in Seattle.

But with the exception of pop-up ads or slower operations, users may
not notice anything happening when spyware programs are present,
experts say. And the programs often apply a legal fig leaf by asking
for consent to be installed as part of a lengthy EULA (End User License
Agreement) that many users OK without reading.

In Congress, a bill to battle spyware sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer
(D) of California, Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon, and Conrad Burns (R) of
Montana recently joined one filed in the House last July by Rep. Mary
Bono (R) of California. They aim to ensure that users know when
programs are being installed on their computers, so that they can
refuse them if they wish, and that spyware that is installed is just as
easily removed. The Federal Trade Commission would enforce compliance.

The FTC has already announced that it is holding a spyware workshop in
Washington on April 19 to gather information about the problem.

In addition, the Utah legislature has sent a bill regulating spyware to
the governor for his signature. Iowa and California have also
considered bills to prevent spyware.

"The Internet is a window on the world, but spyware allows virtual
Peeping Toms to watch where you go and what you do on the Internet,"
Senator Wyden said in a statement about the Senate bill, called the
Spyblock Act.

"The FTC is beginning to look at the extent to which these applications
are unfair and deceptive, and we think that's a really good thing," Mr.
Steffen said in phone interview. "We think a lot of these [spyware]
programs already represent violations under existing fraud statutes or
under other laws."

Although new legislation may have a role to play, Steffen says any
solution must also include educating the public, and self-regulation
within the industry.

"The spyware and adware stuff comes in from all over, and it's really
as dangerous as a virus," says Roger Thompson, vice president for
product development at PestPatrol in Carlisle, Pa., a maker of
antispyware software.

Along with imposing pop-up ads and collecting data about users, spyware
can change computer settings without users' consent, change users'
Internet home pages, or send them to counterfeit versions of familiar
websites, where they are enticed to give out personal information.

"Keystroke loggers" record and transmit every key hit by the user,
which could include such sensitive items as passwords and credit-card
numbers. And they may have a "backdoor" capability, that allows an
outside party to plant new programs on the computer at any time, Mr.
Thompson says in a phone interview.

Perhaps most insidious, some spyware comes attached to programs
advertised to remove spyware from a computer. That's why it's important
to obtain antispyware programs from a reputable source, experts say.
The CDT has sent a letter of complaint to the FTC against one company
that it says was using spyware to change computer users' home pages
without their consent and then telling users that they should buy an
antispyware program to protect themselves.

Spyware is sometimes confused with cookies. Cookies are pieces of data,
not an application, used by a website to record information about
users' visits. Most browsers on most computers have cookies installed
by sites to help them access the sites more easily and quickly, such as
remembering login or registration IDs, user preferences, or "shopping
cart" information. Cookies can raise privacy issues, but they are not
considered spyware.

But even relatively innocent programs that only display ads can be the
source of more serious problems. The University of Washington study
looked for just four of the most common spyware programs - Gator,
Cydoor, SaveNow, and eZula - on 31,303 computers on the university's
system. It found that 5.1 percent of the computers had at least one of
the four installed on it, despite the fact that the vast majority of
the machines were protected by a network firewall intended to keep out
viruses and other malicious intruders.

The study also found security flaws in Gator and eZula that meant they
could be "hacked" into by a third party to become more malicious and
possibly even take control of a computer.

"This potentially means that there are tens of millions of computers
with these programs on them that might be vulnerable to ... attacks,"
says computer scientist Steven Gribble, who helped conduct the study.
Gator has since patched its program to prevent such an attack, he says.

"I'm glad the government is getting involved," Gribble says by phone.
"I'm optimistic that legislation will help, but I'm pessimistic that it
will solve the problem. My suspicion is that it's going to get worse."

How to protect yourself from spyware

Future legislation may help reduce spyware. But computer users can also
take action now to protect themselves. Among the suggestions from
experts:

* Think before you click. Download software only from sources you
trust. Never download programs offered in pop-up ads.

* Understand what you are downloading. Read the End User License
Agreement or other explanatory material, which may contain wording that
gives your consent to spyware being loaded onto your computer.

* Install and run trustworthy anti-spyware software. Spybot Search and
Destroy is one favorite of experts and is free at www.download.com.

The Center for Democracy and Technology also mentions AdAware (also
free at www.download.com), Spyware Eliminator, and BPS Spyware/Adware
Remover.

Other reliable products such as PestPatrol (www.PestPatrol.com, $40)
may cost money (though PestPatrol has a free trial version that will
detect, but not remove, spyware). Internet providers such as Earthlink
and AOL are also beginning to offer antispyware programs to their users.

* If you encounter spyware that bothers you, report it to the FTC.

SOURCES: CDT, Monitor research





(c) Copyright 2004 The Christian Science Monitor.  All rights reserved.

Click here to email this story to a friend:
http://www.csmonitor.com/cgi-bin/send-story?2004/0329/p14s02-stin.txt

The Christian Science Monitor-- an independent daily newspaper providing
context and clarity on national and international news, peoples and
cultures, and social trends.  Online at http://www.csmonitor.com

Click here to order a free sample copy of the print edition of the Monitor:
http://www.csmonitor.com/aboutus/sample_issue.html

_________________________________________________________________________

                    -- ADVERTISEMENT --

Sign up for the Monitor News Alert to be notified of special war coverage.
http://www.csmonitor.com/email

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003, Week 1
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
October 1998
September 1998
August 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998
April 1998
March 1998
February 1998
January 1998
December 1997
November 1997
October 1997
August 1997
July 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997
December 1996
November 1996
October 1996
September 1996
August 1996
July 1996
May 1996
December 1995
November 1995
September 1995
August 1995
March 1995

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



LIST.UVM.EDU

CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager